Starting over: Transforming an Auckland bach into a family home
Struggling with the earthquakes in Christchurch with an 8-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son who is autistic was difficult.
Dealing with a husband who refused to move back to Auckland after 13 years in Christchurch because of property prices was impossible.
So I moved back to Auckland. My husband was meant to sell the house and move. Instead, the house was sold and he stayed in Christchurch.
The children and I had to start afresh. I rented an old salmon-pink bach from a friend in Orewa that my son refused to live in as he would not live in a pink house.
I got some paint from a neighbour who was a painter and once we had painted it - and the movers arrived with his toys - I had one happy son.
Apart from new beds, I bought most of the furniture off Trade Me and renovated it, and soon we had home sweet home. It's amazing how a little imagination, Kmart, Farmers, Trade Me and paint can really transform a house.
The kids started at a wonderful school and I got a job as a teacher's aide at the same school.
Money was tight - my half of the settlement wouldn't buy me much of anything in Auckland, so I was out of the property market. I was so fortunate my sister and brother-in-law had several rentals in West Auckland.
They sold one and together we purchased an adorable two-bedroom bach a mere 100 metres from the beach in Stanmore Bay - a beach I grew up on, as my parents had a bach there for 50 years. It held many happy memories for me, and I wanted the children to make similar memories.
Starting again at 52 was not my idea of fun, but the kids and I managed to do the old bach up nicely. We extended another bedroom and made the lounge bigger and settled into a new life.
Unfortunately, my son had trouble adjusting away from his dad and was acting out at school and having frequent meltdowns.
I was also struggling financially, as teacher's aides get paid a pittance and 12 weeks of the year were school holidays, which meant no income. For those reasons, I decided to leave a job I loved and go on to a carer's benefit.
It was something I never thought I would do and my pride took a hammering, but my son's needs were greater than my own.
I regret nothing, as now, four years later, the children are settled, we have a new life and time has healed our wounds.
The bank balance is still unwell and life is a struggle, but we live a lot simpler than we did.
I have written a book called Embracing autism - A Mother And Son Journey; it will be published on May 25.
Sady, I'm no JK Rowling, and it won't make me millions, but it is something I would never have done had my life not been turned upside down.
I feel we have all achieved something in spite of the obstacles and have grown tremendously in so many ways.
I look at our life now and feel we have weathered the storm, and there is sun on the horizon.
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